Professors from the Critical Media and Cultural Studies Department are concerned about current gun safety laws, especially following the recent Pulse massacre in Orlando. They, along with their students, have been committed to the success of the Pledge for Pulse. It is an initiative established by the bipartisan Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee, which is a group that works on LGBT civil rights.
Dr. Lisa Tillmann has been in touch with the founder of OADO, Michael Slaymaker, who contacted her and her colleague, Dr. Kathryn Norsworthy in Graduate Studies and Counseling, after the Pulse shooting because they were part of the committee.
Dr. Tillmann brought the idea to the Rollins Action Network, which, according to her, is “a group of about 70 faculty and staff who have expressed interest in community organizing and social change work.” Once they got the group involved, they decided to call this initiative the Pledge for Pulse. The current process for this initiative involves contacting candidates for the U.S. and Florida house and senate and asking them to sign the pledge. The pledge asks candidates simply to commit to “pledge to vote for common sense gun safety laws” in order to “honor the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre and because mass shootings steal our freedom,” according to the Pulse Pledge website.
Dr. Steve Schoen commented, “[that they] are not asking for anything very elaborate, they are just asking for gun safety legislation that their constituents support.” This pledge is so relevant because, “large percentages of Americans and Florida residents support increased background checks for guns. Republicans, democrats…everyone wants better background checks.” For example, citizens do not want “someone who’s on the Terrorist Watch List to be able to get a gun…the legislation seems like a no-brainer.”
Dr. Tillman remarked that the powerful aspect of this initiative is that “nobody is a lobbyist, nobody is paid, and this is a volunteer grassroots organization.” So far, the candidates of all the political parties have been contacted twice by e-mail, many by phone, and the goal is to make a second round of calls before the election. Dr. Tillmann and her colleague, Dr. Schoen each made 65 calls last week alone, and they have also gotten their students involved, who volunteered their time and contribute to the first or final round of calls. Dr. Tillmann is hopeful that student involvement has offered a unique experience for students to be calling government officials, “whether it was a camping staff, or the candidate him or herself, or even a holder of public office.”
Joshua Seraballs ‘19 is a Critical Media and Cultural Studies major volunteering for this effort. He has not yet been able to contact any candidates or representatives, yet he states that “what we are doing here is very important because it brings awareness to the candidates and representatives on how many concerned people we have on gun safety.” Along with Joshua, approximately 20 other students came to help Dr. Tillmann and Dr. Schoen and they were able to complete their desired round of calls.
As far as Dr. Tillmann is aware, no other colleges are involved, but the Rollins Action Network (RAN) is working through their Florida contacts to try and get individuals and organizations to call the candidates from their districts and thank them for signing the pledge as seen on the website, or acknowledging the absence of their support on the pledge and addressing the importance of gun safety to them.
Besides the Pulse shooting, another reason that RAN was eager to get involved with gun activism is Campus Carry, “the so-called ‘right’ to have a loaded hidden weapon on a public college or university campus” that is being pushed through the Florida legislature. “Because Rollins is a private school, we wouldn’t have to abide by Campus Carry, but we have close friends and associates who work and study at Florida public universities so we were very concerned for their safety,” says Dr. Tillman.